Horses To Follow » Horses To Follow

Hell’s Kitchen

Hell’s Kitchen put up a really impressive performance to win the 2m 4f novices’ handicap chase.  He settled well in front for Barry Geraghty and, even though Mister Whitaker closed on him over the last two fences, he found plenty on the run-in, going on to win by a length and a half, with the pair of them clear.  The time was good too, marginally faster than Racing Post par.

JP McManus’ horse has always been a horse with lots of potential, and this was a really encouraging performance.  Winner of just one of his three races over hurdles, he is built for fences.  This was just his fourth run over the larger obstacles and just his third completion, and it was a career-best.  He is learning to settle better as he is gaining in experience, and he should continue to progress as continues to learn to settle.  The handicapper raised him by 7lb to a mark of 144, but he has the potential to go beyond that mark now over fences.

Kempton, 26th December 2017


Squouateur did well to finish third in the Paddy Power Chase.  Held up towards the rear of the field through the early stages of the race by Barry Geraghty, his jumping wasn’t overly fluent on occasion, and he was no better than 12th as they turned after jumping the third last fence.  He got caught in traffic a little as they turned for home, but he stayed on well over the last and up the run-in on the far side to take third place behind Anibale Fly and Ucello Conti.

Gordon Elliott’s horse was well beaten by the winner, but he was only beaten a length by his stable companion for the runner-up spot, and he battled on bravely to get the better of another stable companion Potters Point for third.  It was a fine run by JP McManus’ horse, coming from the rear, as he did.  It was a race in which it was probably an advantage to race prominently from early.  The early leader, Vieux Morvan, a 40/1 shot, kept on for fifth place, and the horses who were involved in the finish all raced prominently.  Indeed, Squouateur was the only one of the first eight home who was held up early on.

The handicapper raised him 2lb for this to a mark of 135, which was fair enough, and it still leaves him as a potentially well-handicapped horse, it still leaves him 6lb below his hurdles mark.  Hopefully his jumping will improve, it probably needs to, but he has just turned seven so he still has plenty of potential for progression.  He was travelling well even though he was well back in the field well when he unseated in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham last March, and it may be that that will be the target again this season.  He could also be an Irish National horse, he ran well over 2m in his only chase at Fairyhouse and he is two for two over hurdles there.

Leopardstown, 27th December 2017

Tycoon Prince

Tycoon Prince put up a nice performance to win the 2m 1f beginners’ chase.  He travelled well in behind for Davy Russell and his jumping was good.  He travelled well in behind Le Martalin towards the end of the back straight and, after jumping the last fence – the usual second last – he moved up on the outside of fellow Gigginstown House horse around the home turn.  Bunk Off Early made his ground in behind, but it always looked as if Tycoon Prince was travelling better, and he stayed on well up the home straight around the by-passed final fence, coming clear inside the final 200 yards to win by over six lengths.

It was an impressive performance by Gordon Elliott’s horse.  He has always been held in high regard by connections, he won his three bumpers in 2014/15, but it never really happened for him over hurdles, he couldn’t follow up after winning his maiden in October 2015.  He is built for chasing though, and already he looks like a better chaser than hurdler.  He ran really well on his chasing debut to finish second behind Al Boum Photo at Navan at the end of November in a race that is working out well, and this was a step up on that.  He goes well on this yielding ground, his record on good or yielding ground reads 4111, but he can also handle soft ground, and he should get further than the minimum trip over fences.  He is bred for it, and he ran well twice over two and a half miles over hurdles. He will be of interest wherever he goes next.

Leopardstown, 27th December 2017

Road To Respect

Road To Respect may not have received the credit that he was due for winning the Leopardstown Christmas Chase.  It is true that his main rivals Sizing John and Yorkhill and Djakadam under-performed, but there was still an awful lot to like about the performance that Road To Respect put up to win the race.

The pace was strong from flagfall, set initially by Balko Des Flos, then by Yorkhill, then by Balko Des Flos again, and Road To Respect settled nicely off it.  Noel Meade’s horse settled better here in his first-time hood than he had at Down Royal, when he was just run out of it by Outlander after travelling like a winner.  He seemed to be happier going left-handed here too.  He didn’t give away ground at his fences as he had done at Down Royal and on his previous run at Punchestown, like Down Royal, a right-handed track.

Sean Flanagan delivered the Gigginstown House horse with a well-timed run.  He was checked a little after the third last fence as he ran up in behind Sizing John, but he was quickly back on an even keel.  He got in a little tight to the second last fence, but he made nice ground on the run around the home turn, joined Balko Des Flos and Outlander at the last, and stayed on well up the run-in to win by over a length.  He was strong all the way to the line.

There are parallels between this win and Might Bite’s win in the King George.  They are parallel races for starters, the top three-mile Grade 1 chases over Christmas in Ireland and Britain respectively.  As with Road To Respect at Leopardstown, Might Bite’s three main rivals, Bristol De Mai, Whisper and Fox Norton, under-performed at Kempton.  Might Bite beat a 151-rated rival, the 50/1 shot Double Shuffle, into second place, he beat him by a length.  Road To Respect beat the 157-rated 66/1 shot Balko Des Flos by a length and a quarter.  Both horses were novices last season, both Grade 1-winning novices, yet Might Bite is 7/2 favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, whereas Road To Respect is available at 11/1.

The other thing about the Leopardstown race is that the pace held up well.  Balko Des Flos and Outlander led or raced prominently throughout and they finished second and third respectively, five and a half lengths clear of Minella Rocco in fourth.  Road To Respect came from the rear to win the race, he beat the two early leaders and he clocked a good time, 0.10secs/furlong faster than Racing Post par.  He will probably need to improve again if he is going to win a Gold Cup, but he has just turned seven, he still has potential for progression as a staying chaser.  He is on an upward trajectory, his last two runs have been the best two runs of his life, the latter in a hood, which you have to think will be retained now.  Also, he is one for one at Cheltenham, he was a really impressive winner of the two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase at the Festival last March, and that was after making a serious enough mistake at the first fence when he got knocked sideways, and racing fairly wide throughout.  And he goes well on good ground. There is a lot to like about him as a Gold Cup prospect.

Leopardstown, 28th December 2017


Ballyhill put up a really good performance to win the 2m 5f handicap chase, and there should be more to come.  The plan was obviously to go wide from early, which was understandable, give him room at his fences, for an inexperienced chaser who had fallen on his previous run and who was taking on seasoned high-class handicappers.  His jumping was a little deliberate early on, but he did warm to his task as the race developed.  He was last going out on their final circuit, and he was widest of all, he was six horses wide going down the back straight and he was still five wide as they turned at the top of the hill. He obviously conceded plenty of ground as a consequence, but he still made nice ground to join the front rank, and he travelled well with the leaders running down the hill to the third last.

He landed in front over that obstacle, he travelled well in front around the home turn and he picked up nicely on the run to the second last to jump that fence about 3l in front.  Shantou Flyer did stay on up the run-in to close the gap to 2l by the time they reached the winning line, but it is probable that Ballyhill was only idling in front.  He had led from the third last fence, and he was actually going away again a little at the line.  It is probable that he had a fair bit more in hand than the bare winning margin.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ horse had fallen on his previous run at Aintree, and he had run a lack-lustre race on his run before that, also at Aintree, but his form at the start of the season with Sceau Royal and North Hill Harvey is strong form, and he was travelling well when he departed on his previous run at Aintree.  He has just turned seven, and this was just his fifth chase, so he has plenty of scope for further progression.  He raced off a mark of 133 on Monday, the handicapper raised him by 5lb to a mark of 138, and that is more than fair.

Cheltenham, 1st January 2018